The Ledes

Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Reuters: "Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties."

New York Times: "A train carrying the bodies of victims from the Malaysia Airlines jet downed by a missile last week arrived Tuesday morning in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv after a 17-hour journey out of lawless territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels." ...

... New York Times: "A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart."

The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, July 21, 2014.

Governor Grandstand. New York Times: "Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was expected to announce on Monday the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to bolster security as the Border Patrol faces an influx of Central American immigrants."

Guardian: "As Dutch forensic experts arrived at the scene of the Malaysia Airlines crash on Monday and promised that the train being loaded with the victims' bodies would be moved before the end of the day, heavy fighting broke out between the Ukrainian army and rebels on the outskirts of Donetsk, the main regional city and the hub of the insurgency." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "After days of obstruction, Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine permitted Dutch forensics experts on Monday to search the wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner destroyed by a surface-to-air missile, allowed bodies of the victims to be evacuated by train and agreed to give the plane’s flight recorder boxes to the Malaysian government."

New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin issued a brief statement early on Monday saying that Russia would work to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moves from the battlefield to the negotiating table, and he again said that a robust international investigating team must have secure access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site. He also accused unspecified nations of exploiting the disaster in pursuit of 'mercenary political goals.' The statement posted on the Kremlin website came a day after mounting international criticism and anger against Russia and specifically Mr. Putin for the chaotic, unsecured condition of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site and what some nations said was the desecration of the victims’ bodies."

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post, May 29:"The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was  eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday."

White House Live Video
July 22

11:00 am ET: Josh Earnest's press briefing

12:10 pm ET: President Obama & Vice President Biden deliver remarks & sign H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

3:30 pm ET: Drink Up! with First Lady Michelle Obama

If you don't see the livefeed here, go to


Lunar Landing, Cable News Version. Slate: "In 2009, Andrew Bouvé imagined what it would be like if the moon landing happened today, unleashing cable news on the event.... This Sunday marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing."


New Yorker illustration.

The New Yorker has opened up its archives for the summer. An excellent opportunity to get in on some fabulous reading.


CW: Jordan Weismann of Slate presents this audio as an unusual customer service horror story. It is a nightmare, to be sure. But as someone who has had to deal with stopping & starting various utility & communications services recently, I can attest that it is par for the course for an American U.S. customer service rep. Dealing with non-Americans, who increasing represent U.S. companies, is worse. These reps all work from scripts, but the non-Americans don't understand my English, so their "responses" are even more non-responsive than are those of the Comcast guy there:


Airborne Dinosaur. USA Today: Paleontologists have discovered in China a new species of dinosaur that "had long feathers not just on its wings but also on its hind legs, making it one of only a handful of 'four-winged' dinosaurs. It also had big, sharp teeth and sharp claws, indicating it was carnivorous.... Scientists were surprised to find something so large that could take to the skies so early in the history of flying creatures." ...

     ... CW: Charles Pierce's take: "The Christianists have been wrong all these years. It's not Intelligent Design. It's Abstract Design. God The Dada."

Houston Chronicle: "The Palm Beach mansion known as President JFK's Winter White House has hit the market for a staggering $38.5 million. That price is even more gasp-worthy considering the same property sold for $4.9 million in 1995 and a mere $120,000 in 1933." More photos, including interior shots, at the linked page.

Heller McAlpin reviews Marja Mills' book The Mockingbird Next Door, a memoir of the writer's friendship with Harper Lee & her sister Alice Finch Lee, for the Washington Post.

According to this Daily Beast headline, the "World Awaits LeBron James' Decision." CW: Even though I so often do the sports report, it turns out I am not of this world.

Smart Girls Don't Swear. Vanity Fair "cleaned up, pored over, and painstakingly transcribed" some of the Nixon tapes, "many of which were muffled and, at times, indecipherable." The post excerpts a few: Nixon on gays, Jews, swearing.

New York Times: Hillary Clinton's "memoir, 'Hard Choices,' has just been toppled from its spot on the best-seller list by a sensational Clinton account by her longtime antagonist Edward Klein. It is a powerful statement about today’s publishing realities that Mr. Klein’s book, a 320-page unauthorized and barely sourced account full of implausible passages, including one about a physical altercation between Mrs. Clinton and President Obama, has landed atop the New York Times best-seller list, knocking 'Hard Choices' to No. 2." ...

... If by chance you believe the major media are the exclusive haunts of "elite leftists," here's evidence it ain't so. Klein, the Times story notes, is "a former editor at Newsweek  and The New York Times Magazine."

Eleanor Clift of the Daily Beast interviews Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times. Abramson still doesn't know what "management skills" means. Kinda makes you think maybe she doesn't have any.

Tim Egan: American children are too sheltered. The world isn't as scary as we think it is.

... Thanks to Bonita for the link. CW: I except you actually could purchase the materials at Hobby Lobby you'd need to make an IUD. However, Dr. Weader strongly advises against this do-it-yourself project.

New York Times: "The New Yorker is overhauling its website, making all articles it has published since 2007 available free for three months before introducing a paywall for online subscribers."

The New York Times Magazine publishes excerpts from a few of Warren Harding's love letters to Carrie Phillips. Also, he was a worse poet than he was a president. And Phillips was unfaithful to Harding; then she blackmailed him. Maybe it was because she was so turned off by all those letters where he personified his penis as "Jerry."

Guardian: A Princeton archaeologist has found what may be the world's oldest extant erotic graffiti on the Greek island of Astypalaia in the Aegean sea. Also, it is so gay.

Wherever in the U.S. you may live, if you missed your local news last night, we have it here. In fact, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, here's what will be on your local news tonight. Thanks to Bonita for the link:

Whole Food Business Model: We Cheat You, But Not so Much You'll Notice. Shan Li of the Los Angeles Times: "Whole Foods Market is paying $800,000 in penalties after an investigation found the supermarket chain overcharged customers throughout California. During a yearlong investigation, state and local inspectors found the Austin, Texas, grocer charged more than advertised for a wide range of food products, according to a statement from the Santa Monica city attorney's office. Problems included failing to deduct the weight of containers when ringing up fresh food, putting smaller amounts into packages than the weight stated on the label, and selling items by the piece instead of by the pound, as required by law, the statement said.... 'Based on a review of our own records and a sampling of inspection reports .... our pricing on weighed and measured items was accurate 98% of the time,' the company said in a Tuesday statement." ...

... CW: Besides, if you shop at Whole Foods -- at no charge to you -- you can learn that unions are like herpes, ObamaCare is a form of fascism & climate change is "perfectly natural."

Teenaged curiosity about sex is quite natural, but it can be a bummer.The Vagina Dialog. Turned out to Require a Large Cast of Supporting Characters. Jen Kirby of New York: "An American student studying abroad in Germany captured the world's attention yesterday by achieving the remarkable feat of getting himself stuck in a giant vagina sculpture and needing 22 firefighters to rescue him. But Fernando de la Jara, the artist behind the now-infamous work, took it all in stride.... 'It's participatory art,' de la Jara said. 'It should be entered.'"


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The Commentariat -- March 6, 2012

I'll have a column up on the New York Times eXaminer soon, on Stanley Fish's defense of Rick Santorum. It is not posted yet (at 12:30 pm ET), but there IS other good stuff linked on the NYTX front page. ...

     ... Update: here's my column. AND excellent stuff in today's & yesterday's comments sections!

The Rich Get Richer. Emmanuel Saez via Kevin Drum of Mother Jones: "Top 1% incomes grew by 11.6% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.2%. Hence, the top 1% captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery....It is likely that this uneven recovery has continued in 2011 as the stock market has continued to recover....This suggests that the Great Recession will only depress top income shares temporarily and will not undo any of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asserted on Monday that it is lawful for the government to kill American citizens if officials deem them to be operational leaders of Al Qaeda who are planning attacks on the United States and if capturing them alive is not feasible." Holder made a distinction between "due process" and "judicial process," asserting that the Constitution guarantees the former, not the latter. The justification was pretty damned vague -- no footnotes, no case law. ...

... ** Adam Serwer of Mother Jones translates and elaborates. "Who decides when an American citizen has had enough due process and the Hellfire missile fairy pays them a visit? Presumably the group of top national security officials — that, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, decides who is targetable and forwards its findings to the president, who gives final approval." ...

... AND Glenn Greenwald: President Obama makes the case for preventive war.

The "Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011” has nothing to do with Mitt Romney's employment of undocumented workers to maintain the lawn on one of his estates, for Pete's sake. The bill -- which passed the House 388-3, with Ron Paul among the three dissenters, & which passed the Senate by voice vote, with no "nays" -- makes it a felony to remain in an area the Secret Service designates "restricted" and covers any person protected by the Secret Service (some presidential candidates). The President has not yet signed it. Some are calling it the anti-Occupy law; Paul says it "could make the First Amendment illegal." Well, that's a stretch; the Constitution trumps Congressional law, but of course it's up to the Supremes to decide whether or not the law is unconstitutional, and they won't be making any decision prior to the party conventions this summer....

     ... AND/BUT according to Gene Howington, a guest blogger on Jonathan Turley's blog, the language is so vague that "This would allow for the arrest of protesters just about anywhere. Outside political rallies, near the hotels of visiting foreign dignitaries, outside sporting or other public events like the Super Bowl." The bill has received somewhere around zero mainstream media attention. Just thought you'd want to know. Thanks to contributor Dave S. for the heads-up.

The State of Missouriogyny. CW: I don't usually link to Daily Caller stories, but this one by Caroline May is worth reading: "... the Missouri State Capitol will be honoring [Rush] Limbaugh with a bust of his likeness in the Hall of Famous Missourians.... Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s 2012 senate campaign penned and began circulating a petition to prevent Limbaugh from being inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians. 'No one who disrespects women in this way deserves such an honor. The State of Missouri should condemn this kind of language, not honor it,' read McCaskill’s statement." ...

Adam Peck of Think Progress: Twelve commercial sponsors "have pulled ads from [Limbaugh's] program, and several others are considering following their lead." ...

... Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Rush Limbaugh is really sorry that he had to apologize.... House Speaker John Boehner called Mr. Limbaugh’s language (just the language, not the substance) 'inappropriate' – a formulation that the columnist George Will later mocked as 'comical.' Mr. Will said: 'Using a salad fork for your entrée, that’s inappropriate.'" ...

... Open Salon: "... does Limbaugh's brand of misogyny really have a place on government-funded airwaves? Particularly when it's beamed to a military where some 30% of American servicewomen are sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers at some point in their deployment?" The post links to this White House petition, which I also linked the other day.

Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post: "Two polls out this past weekend show Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) pulling ahead of challenger Elizabeth Warren (D) in the Massachusetts Senate race."

Right Wing World

Here's the New York Times' quick guide to Super Tuesday, state by state.

We can be poor in spirit, and I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing. It can be here today and gone tomorrow. How I measure riches is by the friends I have and the loved ones I have and the people that I care about in my life, and that’s where my values are and that’s where my riches are. -- Ann Romney

Seriously, Platitudes mean more than Cadillacs. And yes indeedy, Mrs. Williard, a Platitude is a very interesting thing. Even if you can't drive your Platitutde to your lousy job. -- Constant Weader

When Even Billions Are Not Enough. Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: the Cato Institute, a libertarian "think" tank bought & paid for by Charles Koch, et al., is resisting his & Bubba's "attempts to install their own people on the institute’s 16-member board and to establish a more direct pipeline between Cato and the family’s Republican political outlets, including groups that Democrats complain have mounted a multimillion-dollar assault on President Obama. Tensions reached a new level with a lawsuit filed last week by the Kochs against Cato over its governing structure." CW: It is a joy to see the jester turn on the king. Of course, the king(s) may win the round, but the cracks in their kingdom are beginning to show. ...

... Alex Pareene of Salon: "Cato is mostly antiwar, decidedly anti-drug war, and sponsors a lot of good work on civil liberties. That … is basically what the Kochs don’t like about them, because white papers on decriminalization don’t help Republicans get elected. As Jonah Goldberg complains in a post that otherwise resolutely refuses to come to a conclusion or have a point, Cato has an annoying habit of not always seeing itself as a natural member of the glorious Republican coalition. (Current Cato headline: 'It’s Not Obama’s Fault That Crude Oil Prices Have Increased.)'”

News Ledes

New Jersey Star-Ledger: "U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, the elder statesman of New Jersey's congressional delegation, died after a months-long battle with colon cancer today, according to his office. The longtime politician was 77."

President Obama will hold a press conference at 1:15 pm ET today. AP: "In his first full news conference of the year Tuesday, Obama was to announce plans to let borrowers with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration refinance at lower rates, saving the average homeowner more than $1,000 a year." ...

     ... New York Times Update: "President Obama challenged his Republican critics to make a case to the American people for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities if they really believe that is the right course to follow, throwing down an election-year challenge to the men who are vying to succeed him and who say that his Iran policy has been too weak." Washington Post: "President Obama sharply criticized his Republican presidential rivals Tuesday for talking 'casually' about going to war with Iran, saying that when such decisions are made for political reasons, 'we make mistakes. What is said on the campaign trail — those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities,' Obama said during an afternoon news conference. 'They are not commander in chief. When I see the casualness with which those folks talk about war, I am reminded of the costs involved in war'.” See Wednesday's Commentariat for video of the full presser. ...

     ... AND Washington Post: "President Obama on Tuesday unveiled two new housing initiatives intended to assist Americans with government-insured loans and members of the military.... Obama announced a new plan to cut refinancing fees for any loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The president also outlined a new agreement with banks to review foreclosures for members of the military that have taken place since 2006 and provide compensation to anyone who wrongfully lost a home. Neither proposal requires Congress's approval."

Today is the GOP's Super Tuesday. Here is the New York Times story about it. Here is the Washington Post story, which I am leaving in single-page mode so you can see the accompanying dorky video in which hyperactive Chris Cillizza explains voting to dummies. ...

     ... NBC Update: here's absolutely everything you could possibly want to know about Super Tuesday. And then some. Oh, and it's a pdf.

Reuters: "Iran said it will give the U.N. nuclear watchdog access to its Parchin military complex, ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday, a site where the agency believes Tehran pursued high explosives research relevant to nuclear weapons." ...

... Guardian: "Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, invoked the spectre of Auschwitz as he chided those who question whether Iran is in pursuit of a nuclear weapon and warned that 'none of us can afford to wait much longer' to act against Tehran. In an address to the powerful pro-Israel lobby [AIPAC] in Washington, Netanyahu derided the effectiveness of sanctions hours after a meeting with Barack Obama at which the US president appealed for time for diplomacy to pressure Iran to open up its nuclear programme to inspection."

Reuters: "Dozens of protesters> angry over fee hikes and budget cuts at California's public universities were arrested on Monday night during a boisterous but peaceful demonstration inside the state Capitol building. The arrests capped a day in which hundreds of students and others marched on the statehouse and rallied outside the Capitol before many of the activists moved the demonstration inside the building, clogging hallways in and around the rotunda." The Sacramento Bee story is here.


The Commentariat -- March 5, 2012

Paul Krugman writes the anti-Olympia Snowe column (he doesn't mention her, but ...): "... we can take a big step toward full employment just by using the federal government’s low borrowing costs to help state and local governments rehire the schoolteachers and police officers they laid off, while restarting the road repair and improvement projects they canceled or put on hold." ...

... Here was Matt Yglesias of Slate last week on Snowe's "feckless" impact on the 2009 stimulus: "She chose to use her influence to trim down the spending side of the package, with a particular focus on reducing federal financial assistance to state and local governments."

Steven Sloan & Kathleen Hunter of Bloomberg News: "Senate Democrats are considering a debate on ending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for top earners before the November election because they think they’re in a stronger position than in 2010, said Senator Charles Schumer."

President Obama's Ode to Israel speech to AIPAC yesterday contained a fairly blunt warning to his GOP rivals:

     ... Helene Cooper of the New York Tiimes: "As Republicans on the campaign trail ramped up their support for Israel in a possible military strike on Iran, President Obama used a speech before a pro-Israel lobbying group on Sunday to warn against the 'loose talk of war' that could serve to speed Iran toward a nuclear weapon." ...

     ... ** Amir Oren of Haaretz: "After a speech like that, [President Obama's] meeting with [Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu on Monday is almost superfluous: It already seems clear that Obama is determined not to grant him anything. Obama sent a complex, multifaceted message. He is a loyal friend of Israel, as evidenced by both the record of his actions over the last three years and the testimony of an eminent witness, President Shimon Peres. He is absolutely and unequivocally opposed to Iran having nuclear weapons. But he is first and foremost the U.S. president, whose commitment to do everything possible to thwart Iran's nuclear program has properly been given to the citizens of his own country -- the ones who will pay the price of any war with their lives and their wallets -- rather than to the impudent leader of a foreign country." Read the whole piece.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: President Transparency is mighty opaque -- a sorry assessment of the administration's so-called efforts to create "the most open and transparent government in history." ...

Obama Administration lawyers are aggressively fighting FOIA requests at the agency level and in court — sometimes on Obama’s direct orders. They’ve also wielded anti-transparency arguments even bolder than those asserted by the Bush administration. -- Josh Gerstein

Sari Horwtiz & Peter Finn of the Washington Post: "Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Monday plans to provide the most detailed account to date of the Obama administration’s legal rationale for killing U.S. citizens abroad, as it did in last year’s airstrike against an alleged al-Qaeda operative in Yemen, officials said. The rationale Holder plans to offer resembles, in its broad strokes, those previously offered by lower-ranking officials. But his speech Monday will mark a new and higher-profile phase of the administration’s campaign to justify lethal action in those rare instances in which U.S. citizens, such as New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, join terrorist causes devoted to harming their homeland."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "Every version of the Supreme Court is different from the one that came before, and the current edition, it has been widely noted, is unusual in many ways."

NEW. Sandra Fluke appears on ABC's "The View":

video platform video management video solutions video player

     ... NEW. Media Matters has some excellent posts on the Limbaugh remarks and his "apology." Here is the post Fluke mentioned in her interview -- Justin Berrier & Eric Schroeck name some of the wingers who rushed to Rush's defense. Here is a roundup of commentators who criticize Limbaugh's "apology"; e.g., conservative David Frum calls it "about the most graceless apology ever": includes videos of commentary. And this one, by Chelsea Rudman, which might be titled, "Explaining Birth Control Methods to Misogynists & Health Insurance to Dummies." ...

Art by David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times.... NEW. David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times: on Limbaugh's attack on Fluke: "But it is nothing new. This is how he has 'entertained' day after day for years. He doesn’t debate. He doesn’t inform. He vilifies, insults, smears, slanders, distorts and misleads. Rush is a schoolyard bully who specializes in picking on girls – or 'feminazis,' as he loves to call them. Limbaugh has led the way in destroying civility in politics. It’s bad enough that his overbearing pseudo-patriotism has been emulated by other right-wing radio and TV commentators; worse is the fact he has become the oracle of the dominant wing of the Republican Party."

Brian Stelter of the New York Times: "On Sunday, a seventh company, ProFlowers, said that it was suspending all of its advertising on 'The Rush Limbaugh Show' despite his apologetic statement a day earlier.... Mr. Limbaugh ... is estimated to make $50 million a year and whose program is a profit center for Premiere Radio Networks, the company that syndicates it. The program makes money both through ads and through fees paid by local radio stations." ...

... Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC Chair, speaks about Limbaugh & contraception coverage:

... has a petition urging Sec. Panetta to take Limbaugh off Armed Forces Radio. You have to establish a White House account to sign the petition. ...

... Will Dunham of Reuters: "... Ron Paul expressed doubt on Sunday that conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh truly meant it when he apologized for calling a law student a 'slut' over her support for President Barack Obama's new policy on insurance coverage of contraceptives. 'I don't think he's very apologetic. He's doing it because some people were taking their advertisements off his program. It was his bottom line that he was concerned about,' Paul told the CBS program 'Face the Nation.'"

Amy Chozick of the New York Times: "The wave of incriminating headlines and the surging stock price reflect the cognitive dissonance generated by News Corporation’s phone hacking scandal."

If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed. -- Mitt Romney, Oracle of Detroit, in a New York Times op-ed, November 18, 2008. Thanks to Greg Sargent for the Reminder ...

... Yo, Willard! Chris Bury of ABC News: Arthur J. Gonzales, "the federal judge who presided over Chrysler’s bankruptcy, told ABC News ... that the ailing company could not have survived without taxpayer money.... President Obama is taking credit for saving more than a million jobs because of the bailouts, while Republican candidates have voiced their opposition to the government loans.... Mitt Romney insists, 'It was the wrong way to go,' and that General Motors and Chrysler should have gone through 'a private bankruptcy process.' ... The former chief judge also denied that the speedy bankruptcy hearing somehow prevented private investors from stepping up, pointing out that the government and Chrysler’s creditors had been seeking a solution for 18 months, to no avail."

Right Wing World

Prof. Neil Gross in the New York Times: Research indicates that attending college does not actually make you more liberal and less religious. The main reason this idea took hold is that it suited the conservative cause: "... attacking liberal professors as elitists ... helps position the conservative movement as a populist enterprise by identifying a predatory elite to which conservatism stands opposed — an otherwise difficult task for a movement strongly backed by holders of economic power."

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker provides an historical overview of how extremists took over the Republican party; short version: public participation.

Mark Murray of NBC News: "Four in 10 of all adults say the GOP nominating process has given them a less favorable impression of the Republican Party, versus just slightly more than one in 10 with a more favorable opinion."

Art by Bob Staake.

Steve Holland & Jeremy Pelofsky of Reuters: "Mitt Romney closed in on Rick Santorum in Ohio and picked up a crucial endorsement in Virginia on Sunday as he grows in strength ahead of 'Super Tuesday,' the biggest day yet in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination."

CW: just around to reading this New York Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Laurie Goodstein on the evolution of Rick Santorum's faith. It's interesting -- and scary, if you think he could be president. ...

... Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico interviews Karen Santorum. ...

A conservative, a liberal, and a moderate walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Hi, Mitt.' -- Foster Friess, Rick Santorum's sugar daddy

Ha! Romney Advised Obama to Use the Individual Mandate. Alec Kaczynski of BuzzFeed: "... Mitt Romney often ... says his [healthcare] plan was done on a state level, where the central theme to both plans, the individual mandate, was actually a conservative approach. But in a July 2009 op-ed in USA Today Romney thought the President could learn a thing or two from the plan he signed into law in Massachusetts, including using the individual mandate as an incentive for people to buy insurance."

David Brooks explains how Mitt Romney decided to run for president:

There he was a few years ago sitting on the front porch of his fourth summer home innocently wondering why the trees of New England are so unpleasantly tall, and he turns to his buddies, who own Nascar teams, hotel chains, political parties and various small emirates, and he asks them if it would be a good idea if he ran for president. They point out that a presidential campaign would allow him to recite obscure verses of patriotic songs all across America, so he agrees to do it.

News Ledes 

New York Times: "Syria's government made diplomatic gestures on Monday toward seeking an end to the uprising that has convulsed the country, agreeing for the first time to allow visits by the top United Nations relief official and by the newly designated envoy who represents the United Nations and the Arab League."

When One (Afghanistan) or Two (Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran) Wars Are Not Enough. Politico: "Arizona Republican John McCain on Monday will become the first U.S. senator to call for U.S.-led air strikes to stop the slaughter of unarmed civilians being carried out by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad."

New York Times: "With Israel warning that it may mount a military strike against Iran, President Obama welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to the White House, but signaled that he would press for more time for a campaign of economic sanctions to work on Tehran." Story has been updated.

Guardian: "Al-Qaida militants have launched a surprise attack against army bases in southern Yemen, killing 78 soldiers, military officials say. The scale of Sunday's attack in Abyan province points to the militants' combat readiness as they launch more and more attacks in a region that the US considers a key battleground in the war on al-Qaida."

Haaretz: "Iran has tripled its monthly production of higher-grade enriched uranium and the UN nuclear watchdog has 'serious concerns' about possible military dimensions to Tehran's atomic activities, the agency's chief said on Monday. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also told the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors about the lack of progress in two rounds of talks between the Vienna-based UN agency and Tehran this year."

Reuters: "American International Group (AIG) is selling part of its stake in AIA Group to raise about $6 billion to help the U.S. insurer repay a huge federal government bail-out."

Al Jazeera: "Russia's presidential elections were 'clearly skewed' in favour of Vladimir Putin and 'lacked fairness', international election monitors have reported as Putin celebrated returning to the Kremlin for a third term. In a statement issued on Monday, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, said that voting had been 'assessed positively overall and had produced a clear winner with an absolute majority'. But it said: 'Voter's choice was limited, electoral competition lacked fairness and an impartial referee was missing.'" ...

     ... New York Times Update: "While Mr. Putin was still celebrating his win, thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in a city square to blast his victory as illegitimate, chanting 'Russia without Putin,' and 'Putin is a thief; we are the government!' When riot police demanded the crowd disperse an hour later, dozens of demonstrators encircled the blogger Aleksei Navalny, the most charismatic figure to emerge in this wave of activism, but officers detained him and pushed him into a police van along with most of the movement’s other prominent leaders. Dozens of other arrests were reported, while determined protesters tried to keep regrouping."


The Commentariat -- March 4, 2012

Updated: My column in in the New York Times eXaminer is titled "Joe Nocera's Phony Defense of Bipartisanship." My next column, which I haven't written yet, will be is titled "Frank Bruni's Phony Defense of Bipartisanship." The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.

** "Whitewashing Gay History." Frank Rich: "Liberals applaud themselves for championing gay marriage. But there are ghosts at the wedding."

Ricardo Lopez & Kim Geiger of the Los Angeles Times: "In what was surely a rare move for the conservative radio host, Rush Limbaugh apologized Saturday to the Georgetown University law school student he called a 'slut' and 'prostitute' earlier in the week. The apology, posted to his website, said he did not mean to make a 'personal attack' against Sandra Fluke." The article doesn't mention, nor does Rush's post, that he carried on these denigrating comments for days. Here's a portion of Rush's "apology":

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? ... My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

CW Translation: I'm losing my sponsors, for Christ's sake! And about those word choices -- I just couldn't think of another way to say 'slut,' 'prostitute' and 'round-heels.' Hope you like 'personal sexual recreational activities' better. BTW, Rick Santorum, I'm not the one who's 'absurd'; Ms. Fluke is. She should act more responsibly, the way I do. Never mind my constant lies, intemperate language & vilification of others, the four wives, the Oxycontin habit & the illegal drug deals.

... Maureen Dowd: "Rush and Newt Gingrich can play the studs, marrying again and again until they find the perfect adoring young wife. But women pressing for health care rights are denigrated as sluts."

We kind of got our Irish up when leaders in government seemed to be assigning an authoritative voice to Catholic groups that are not the bishops. If you want an authoritative voice, go to the bishops. They’re the ones that speak for the truths of the faith. -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. -- St. Augustine of Hippo ...

... This Is All We Need. Tim Stelloh & Andy Newman of the New York Times: "Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told Roman Catholics on Saturday that in an era when the church was fighting the government on several fronts, they needed to make their voices heard more clearly in the political sphere." Read the whole article.

It’s state-sanctioned abuse. It borders on a definition of rape. Many states describe rape as putting any object into an orifice against a person’s will. Well, that’s what this is. A woman is coerced to do this, just as I’m coerced. The state of Texas is waging war on women and their families. The new law is demeaning and disrespectful to the women of Texas, and insulting to the doctors and nurses who care for them. -- Dr. Curtis Boyd, a Texas physician, on the new Texas law requiring women who want abortions to submit to transvaginal ultrasound probe, listen to the fetal heartbeat, view the fetus on an ultrasound screen, go to anti-abortion "crisis" centers, & listen to their doctors read "a politicized list of so-called dangers of abortion" ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "If Texas legislators wanted to reduce abortions, the obvious approach would be to reduce unwanted pregnancies. The small proportion of women and girls who aren’t using contraceptives account for half of all abortions in America.... Yet Texas has some of the weakest sex-education programs in the nation, and last year it cut spending for family planning by 66 percent."

** "Innocence Is Not Enough." In a New York Times op-ed, lawyer & former New York Times reporter Raymond Bonner recounts the case of Edward Lee Elmore, a man who served 30 years in prison, much of the time "under the threat of imminent execution," for a rape and murder he did not commit....

... Naomi Wolf in Al Jazeera: "... while Obama should continue to apologise for the Quran burnings, we must understand that Afghans' rage is a response to an even deeper, rawer wound. Obama should also apologise for kidnapping Afghans; for holding them at Bagram without due process of law; for forcing them into cages, each reportedly holding up to 30 prisoners; for denying them Red Cross/Red Crescent visits; for illegally confiscating family letters; for torturing and sexually abusing them; and for casting a pall of fear over the country. The Quran forbids that kind of injustice and cruelty. So does the Bible." Thanks to reader Victoria for the link.

Right Wing World

Newt & Callista Make Plans for Lent. For those who think all is well with "traditional Republican wives," even among those of the Roman Catholic persuasion, kept barefoot in Manolos and strangely not pregnant, our thanks go to Nicole Belle of Crooks and Liars and my friend Kate M. for setting us straight:

     ... If you need a translation, Belle obliges. Warning: clicking on the audio will throw you to Crooks & Liars, & I can't figure out how to disable that fun feature.

News Ledes

Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Thirty-one women's-rights demonstrators were arrested this afternoon in a protest at the state Capitol that drew hundreds of protesters and Virginia State Police in riot gear.... The demonstration came after the General Assembly approved hotly disputed legislation that requires women to have an ultrasound before getting an abortion."

New York Times: "Russian voters overwhelmingly granted Vladimir V. Putin a six-year term as president on Sunday, a widely expected outcome that set the stage for a far more suspenseful post-election confrontation between the freshly emboldened leader and an opposition movement that has repeatedly rallied tens of thousands of protesters."

Here's the Washington Post's report on President Obama's speech before AIPAC.

Washington Post: "House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Sunday, becoming the first member of GOP leadership to back the GOP frontrunner."

Haaretz: Israeli "President Shimon Peres will meet with President Barack Obama in the U.S. capital on Sunday. Peres will also tell delegates of pro-Israel lobby AIPAC that Israel is not rushing into a war, but will defend itself if it has to."

AP: "While scattered damage was reported elsewhere, the worst destruction was in Limestone and Madison counties [Alabama], where 190 homes were damaged or destroyed."

Washington Post: "Complaints of vote-rigging were starting to pile up Sunday, even as an intensely watched presidential election is underway across Russia’s nine time zones."


Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot ...

... And Al Franken is a Senator who can subpoena him.

I have some additions to make to the published comments on Rush Limbaugh.

A reader writes that a friend of hers reminded her,

Rush Limpballs was reprimanded immediately after a broadcast of Monday Night Football after making a racist comment about Donovan McNabb, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles a few years ago. He was immediately fined and taken off the air and very soon afterwards FIRED from his newly hired and long desired position of being a broadcaster for the National Football League and the sweet position of being given MNF. Clearly, one race related comment during one MNF game is worse than the toxic ugly words he has used to once again downgrade women and the strong Georgetown student during the course of this week.

The problem of course is that there is no one to fire Rush from his radio show. His show is syndicated and airs on about 600 radio stations, including the Armed Forces Services Network. Yes, indeed, your tax dollars are supporting Rush's effluvient Santorum. Petitions and letters asking Congress to remove Rush from the AFSN have been unsuccessful. There are only two routes to having him removed: sponsor by sponsor and station by station. This process has been somewhat successful in limiting Glenn Beck's airtime. When sponsors dropped their backing of Beck's Fox "News" show in response to public pressure, Roger Ailes canned him. And he lost his radio audience in several markets -- New York & Philadelphia among them -- when local stations dropped his show.

Another friend of Reality Chex, who is a prominent psychiatrist, tells me that he feels not enough attention has been paid to Rush's suggestion to tape college students having sex and post the videos on the Internet for viewers to "enjoy." This is symptomatic of Rush's objectification of women (ah, those four wives) and a sexual preference for porn (and masturbation?). The doctor describes pornography as "a sexual fetish -- preferring sexual stimulation by inanimate objects." Rush likes his women pixilated and in two dimensions. The psychiatrist also notes that 40 percent of sex addicts have associated chemical addictions. Could that possibly apply to Oxycontin Man? And Rush may be a sick-o, but do his fundamentalist Christian disciples really approve of compulsive masturbation to sexual imagery? How about you, Rick Santorum? Why do "entertainers" get a special pass to have sex "that is counter to how things are supposed to be"?

Finally, this, which is P. D. Pepe's comment come to life on the itty-bitty screen: